Cooling stations open as heat wave sets up over region

Sussex County has four designated “cooling stations” at the ready for anyone who needs a break from what forecasters expected early this week would be the summer’s hottest weather thus far.

National Weather Service forecasters this week were predicting temperatures mid-week to top 90 degrees, with heat index values near or exceeding 100 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday, and possibly maxing out at 115 degrees by Saturday.

There is the chance of heavy thunderstorms Wednesday night into Thursday as the remnants of Hurricane Barry move through the region, officials noted, but those storms are not expected to provide long-lasting relief from the summer sizzle.

Sussex County officials reminded the public that select County facilities are always available as “cooling stations” in the summer during their regular business hours, offering the public a respite from the heat and humidity.

The air-conditioned sites include:

• the Sussex County Administration Building, at 2 The Circle in Georgetown;

• the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach;

• the Milton Public Library; and

• the Greenwood Public Library.

Official said Sussex County paramedics will make routine stops at those locations, as time permits, to answer any heat-related questions and/or concerns. Also, free, individual servings of bottled water will be available at the County Administration Building only, to help the public cool off from the heat.

When visiting a relief station, officials said, people should bring any medications and/or specialty items that they need.

Residents and visitors are being urged to limit exposure outside, particularly during the hottest part of the day — roughly from 1 to 6 p.m. Those who must be outside should take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of water.

Some hot weather safety tips:

• Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Lighter clothing deflects sunlight, and will not absorb heat like dark materials do;

• Stay in properly ventilated areas;

• Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day;

• Have plenty of water available. Avoid alcoholic beverages;

• Be aware of the signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and seek medical attention if necessary. Signs of heat cramps can include muscular pains and spasms from heavy exertion. Resting in a cooler area, taking occasional sips of water and stretching the muscle mildly can counter the effects of heat cramps. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are much more serious, and may require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include a pale or flushed appearance, as well as headache and nausea. Heat stroke symptoms include rapidly increased body temperature, loss of consciousness, rapid or weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing.

The public was being urged to check on friends, relatives and neighbors — particularly the elderly and young children — who may be at risk for exposure to the heat, and to remember to give pets extra water, provide shade or bring them into a residence where temperatures are cooler.

It is also important, officials said, to keep in mind that, due to the higher temperatures and humidity expected in the area over the coming days, demand for electricity will increase. In an effort to reduce costs and avoid power shortages, the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center has asked all residents and business operators in Sussex County to help conserve power to avoid outages.

To help in conservation of electricity, take the following steps:

• Set air conditioners to 80 degrees, or use fans instead, and minimize the opening of refrigerators and freezers;

• Limit the use of electric water heaters and turn off non-essential appliances and lights;

• Delay using high-energy appliances, such as washing machines and dryers, until after 8 p.m.;

• Prepare light summer meals that require minimal, if any, cooking. Try using an outdoor grill or microwave oven instead of an electric range;

• Keep window shades, blinds or drapes closed to block the sunlight during the hottest portion of the day;

• Move lamps, TVs and other heat sources away from air conditioner thermostats. Heat from those appliances is sensed by the thermostat and could cause an air conditioner to run longer than necessary;

• Move furniture and other obstacles from in front of central air conditioning ducts to allow cooler air to circulate through rooms more freely.

Businesses can conserve electricity by:

• Raising thermostats;

• Turning off unnecessary lighting and equipment.

County residents were also reminded to create a Safety Profile for their household and loved ones with the County’s free Smart911 service, which provides potentially critical, life-saving information to first responders in an emergency.

Profiles can contain as much or as little information as users want, including details about their properties, special medical conditions and family contacts. Visit www.smart911.com to get started.

The Sussex County EOC and Sussex County EMS will continue to monitor the weather situation and issue updates as needed, officials said.